A rebel with a cause | Daily News

A rebel with a cause

The land bordering Maduru Oya was Bintenne where people living during the time of British occupation of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815, desired to remain independent from the foreign rule. This was so even at the time of their own rulers while they remained loyal to them.

Among the leaders of this region official positions like Rate Rala, Muhandiram, Adikaram, Archcchila and Korala were given to the members of the leading Sinhala families. Then the supply of salt and dry fish was the service rendered by the Muslim traders who were under the control of the Sinhala Muhndirams. It was the families of Butave Rala, Kohukumbure Rala of Wellassa who officiated the regular supply of salt and dry fish to the royal palace in Kandy.

Hill country

Muslims who were living in Wellassa served the kings of Kandy under their own Madige Ralas in performing their services - Rajakariya to the Sinhala kings. When the victorious British armies marched through Wellassa, Muslims helped them in transporting their goods to the hill country.

During the British occupation in Kandy, their soldiers looted and raped women of the Sinhala nobility which created a series of dissatisfaction among the people. It was no wonder the uprising against the British triggered off three years after the British occupation when the appointment of Hajji Muththu became the main issue for the Ova Rebellion of 1818.

The leadership of the rebellion was given to Kohukumbure Rala and Bhutave Rala. The news spread in the area of the presence of Doraisamy, a cousin of the deposed King Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, raised hopes among the people of installing a ruler in place of the British rule.

A battalion was sent by the British to support Hajji Muhandiram who acted on the information of the rebels set out in search of the rebels to Kehelulla and from there to Pinnawella. It was then, Bhutawe Rala armed with clubs and other weapons surrounded Hajji and his party in a surprise raid.

The Sinhala leaders of Bintenne, Wellassa and Uva and also Bhikkhus began to gather and discuss the rebellion. Within a month their numbers increased. Before long arms and ammunition and also food were collected to resist against the British. There was a widespread of resentment among the people which was noticed by the British authorities.

Hajji Muhandiram was sent by the British authorities along with soldiers to capture the rebels and they went in search of them from place to place when hearing about the movements of the rebels. Hajji Muhandiram finally went to Pinnawella.

The rebels came out from their hideouts, surrounded Hajji Muhandiram and tied him and then took him to Kokkagala as a prisoner.

Wounded Lascarins

On hearing Hajji‘s capture the British authorities sent Wilson with armed soldiers. Wilson was surrounded and was wounded and so was one of the Lascarins. The others escaped. Wilson’s head was severed from his body and was taken to Kehehulla and from there to Kokkagala.

Governor Brownrigg was on his way from Trincomalee when he heard the news of Wilson, how he was rounded by the rebels and was beheaded and he sent Keppetipola Disava who was loyal to the British to quell the rebellion.

Disava first went to Badulla and then arrived at Alupotha where he met Kohukumbure Rala who addressed the Disava. “By losing our freedom we have become slaves under the British, our religion and customs are threatened by the acts of the British. People are united and they are with us. We have now a ruler of our own to lead the battle against the British. If you don’t join us we have to take your head to our new ruler.”

One day a Muslim soldier came to meet Kohukumbure Rala and told him if the newly appointed king could grant him rewards and position in the army he would join the rebels. So Kohukumbure Rala promised to grant him his requests and the soldier promising to come again left Wellassa.

Treated to meals

After a few days time, some soldiers who had deserted the British army left Badulla and headed towards Wellassa. Kohukumbure Rala who is now Rate Mahaththaya received them and they were treated with meals.

While they were enjoying their meals by taking their seats on either side of Kohukumbure Rala the leader of the Muslim group Annan began to cough.

Immediately they took out their weapons that were concealed under their dresses began to attack them and killed them except Kohukumbure Rala who was taken alive to Kotabava where the British soldiers were stationed. In this manner the leader of 1818 rebellion, Kohukumbure Rala was captured and with him, one of the Sinhala leaders was lost.

It weakened the resistance of the Sinhala people who raised the rebellion in 1818 with the support of the villagers of Kokkagala, Kehelulla, Kohukumbura, Alupotha and the veddhas of Bintanne.



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